“Warm, generous single mom seeking respectful, cooperative man who dreams big with both feet on the ground. I love long embraces, café che and anything curried.” It’s a cool foggy Friday evening in the Bay Area, and, to my amazement, I have a date. I’m pulling off my work-at-home uniform — a pair of worn Levi’s — and trading them for a bright crimson slit skirt. As I lean into the closet, my 5-year-old daughter is trying to put a rainbow clip in my hair. She doesn’t know what a date is.
And I don’t know exactly who my date is. We met online a few weeks ago, when he wrote to me:
“Just read your profile and wanted to tell you that I have been looking for someone like you. Something about the strength of a single mother is very attractive to me. Please read my profile and drop me a note if the spirit moves you.”
I’m flattered, but wonder: Is there any man who really finds single motherhood attractive? If he saw me at the end of any day — with my hair unwashed and spaghetti sauce spotting my T-shirt — would he really be drawn to me? This man has no idea that at the end of every day I am run ragged. As I glance around my apartment, I can see chicken bones on the counter and lots of stray crayons under the table.
Just last night my daughter was screaming, “But I don’t want to go to bed like a big girl!”
“Then you can go to nap room tomorrow like a baby!” I screamed back, immediately feeling like a horrible mom.
Perhaps I didn’t deserve this man’s admiration; maybe I would disappoint him?
As I zip my skirt up, my daughter, Mae, is still trying to jab the hair clip into my scalp. She’s the love of my life, and we’re an unlikely pair. I’m a 33-year-old white woman — raised by an Irish Catholic mother and Polish Jewish father — who had her bat mitzvah at Lafayette’s Temple Isaiah and went to Jewish camp every summer (Contra Costa Jewish Community Center day camp, followed by Camp Swig and Camp Tawonga). My daughter is a mix of my genes, plus African American and Native American from her paternal side. She has cinnamon skin, wild brown kinky hair, gray-blue eyes and freckles.
Having attended a Jewish preschool since age 2, Mae is very proud of her Jewish identity. She can belt out a repertoire of Shabbat songs, recite the menu of any Jewish holiday, and tell a mean story about King Pharaoh. She will take her sketchbook and sit for a long time in the kitchen, drawing one Jewish star after another until they cover the page.
In fact, she’s always correcting me about my own Jewish (mis)understanding. When I volunteered to make 100 hamantaschen for Purim this year, Mae stayed up two hours past her bedtime, insisting that she had to pinch the corners of each hat, because, “You don’t do it right, Mama.” When her preschool teachers displayed the drawing she had made of Batya on their art wall — and I whispered to her, “Honey, who’s Batya?” — she scrunched her eyebrows at me, as if to say, “You can’t really be my mother, can you?”
Both of us can be very feisty, and at times, I question my own namesake and “biblical karma” as a mother who’s on an intense spiritual journey.
I wonder how tonight’s date will respond to my family. I know that we’re quite a mix for any man to take on. I will insist that the man in our lives is drama- and drug-free, open and honest, responsible and very fond of children. Mae, on the other hand, will be firm that the man in our lives knows how to braid challah, hide matzah, and sing all the words to “Zum Gali Gali.”